So you might have noticed that I love egg whites in cocktails. Drinking is not just about the flavor and balance of a cocktail but also about the texture. And egg whites provide that silky and creamy texture that works fantastically well in certain drinks. Using egg whites can be intimidating though: how do I achieve that fluffy egg white? Is it safe? Is it a pain? Well I am here to demystify the egg white and encourage you all to mix cocktails with egg whites. It's not a difficult ingredient to use once you know what you are dealing with. Ready? First we need to understand why shaking with egg whites is different from shaking a cocktail without egg whites. Let's take a step back and ask why we shake a cocktail anyway. We shake a cocktail to achieve three goals: (1) chilling, and (2) dilution, and (3) mixing all the ingredients evenly. Normally we can do all three at the same time by shaking with ice and straining into our glass. A nice hard shake for 30 seconds or so will simultaneously achieve all three goals. When you shake with egg whites you have a problem. You need the egg white proteins to coagulate to form that frothy texture. Essentially you are doing in a shaker what bakers do with a whisk to make meringue. Okay, so why not just add the egg whites to the shaker and shake with ice like you normally would? Well now you reach the problem. Egg whites need a lot of shaking and whipping to get the texture just right. If you did that with ice in the shaker then the ice would completely melt and you would over dilute the drink. You avoid this problem with the dry shake. The dry shake is termed such because it is a shake without ice (hence "dry"). So you add all the ingredients you need to shake (including the egg white), but you do not add ice just yet. Shake vigorously for one minute (one minute is a really long time when you are shaking vigorously -- if you don't trust me then try it at home). Now the eggs are whipped up very nicely, but you have not yet chilled or diluted the contents properly. So open up the shaker and add some ice. Now you will shake again to cool and dilute the drink.
Kind of a pain right? Well it's become part of the ritual for some cocktails. It sort of adds to the anticipation of the first sip of that luscious egg white. And working so hard to get it just right makes the reward that much nicer. But, as I mentioned in a previous post, there is a trick to get the shake time down, which is key when entertaining. When I am making many egg white cocktails, I use a blender ball (a spherical whisk) when I dry shake. The ball whisks the egg white so I can shake for less time. Some bartenders use a cat toy (a clean one!) or a the spring off a Hawthorne strainer. All work well. Just be sure to remove the aid before adding the ice for the second shake.
Alright, so now you know how to shake with egg white. How do you get egg whites and how much do you need? The best egg whites to use come from fresh eggs. Yes, this means you must separate the yolk out. But fresh eggs mean a better end product. You do not have to use the entire egg white from one egg for each cocktail. You will end up with too much egg white depending on the size of your eggs. I like 1/2 ounce of egg white per cocktail. It is not ideal, but you can use carton egg whites instead of fresh eggs. Carton egg whites tend to pasteurize the egg whites, which changes the texture a bit. But they work well generally.
That brings me to my last point. Safety. Egg whites from eggs will not be pasteurized so there is a risk of bacterial infections. Clean, intact, fresh eggs have low risk (around 1% chance of Salmonella contamination), and the egg white has even lower risk. But if you are worried then you can use pasteurized eggs or egg whites in a carton.
I hope this has encouraged all of you to use egg whites in cocktails! If you need some suggestions then look no further than the Meyer Lemon Gin Fizz, the Rye Maple Fizz, the Jasmine Gin Fizz, or, my personal favorite, the Ramos Gin Fizz. Doing so is worth the effort!